There’s an endless list of solutions at any given price point, and far more to choose from than Cambridge or Bryston. You need to narrow down what you’re looking for to get better advice.
Do you know your budget? Do your speakers have particular requirements of an amp? Do you need hi-rez DSD natively from a DAC?
Streaming devices are becoming more and more common, and I’d say the chance of rapid obsolescence is far less today than it was last year or any time before that. There will always be new products, though.
My amp is a Rogue Audio Sphinx (100 watt per channel class D), and speakers are KEF LS50s. I have a B&W subwoofer. Principal use of the streamer/DAC will be to play high resolution Qobuz content. I don’t need the device to be an amp or pre-amp. Budget: I hope to get something for $1,500 or so but would spend up to perhaps $4,000 for a substantially better product (that is, a more than marginal improvement in sound quality).
OK, that narrows things down a bit by excluding amp devices. So the choice is between separates (streamer + DAC) vs one-box streaming-DACs, over quite a wide budget spread, so still a ton of options!
I might suggest shortlisting just the one-box solutions first on the basis that they can be compared more easily and also because standalone streamers are much fewer in number vs straight DACs. You might read therefore that standalone streamers are best for folks who already have a DAC they like and want to keep, rather than because separates are superior for a given spend. Also, the weak point of separates is you need to ensure high quality USB/SPDIF implementation between the streamer output and the DAC input; another rabbit hole.
Some usual suspects would be Auralic, Mytek, Simaudio. The new Gold Notes also look interesting. I’m reading that you like a clear, neutral sound given you have a hybrid amp + KEFs, so perhaps biasing towards a warmer sounding front-end would make sense. The only way to be sure is to trial components in your system.
I can discuss the Cambridge 851N. I got one in 2016 and have been happy with the sound and reliability. I listened mainly to CDs and flac files ripped from CDs, with the odd hi-res and DSD download. I have a 10TB hard drive attached and it does very well as a streamer, tough the user interface here is a bit primative. The best part, though, is the recent firmware upgrade to include Qobuz. Wow. I couldn’t be happier. Switched from Spotify and now 90% plus of my listening is through Qobuz.
A buddy of mine has the CXN version 1 also with bel canto monoblocks, and the 851N does sound better, IMO. But it didn’t get the Qobuz upgrade I believe.
It would not surprise me though, to see Cambridge introduce a new network/streamer at the $1500 price point. Their new Edge is getting very good reviews, and it is logical to see some trickle down from there. But nothing has been announced to my knowledge.
One further note, the 851N on the used market (~$500) seem very very inexpensive to me...maybe an interim fix if you are waiting for a new product from Cambridge.
I have the Bryston BDA-3, connected a Bryston DAC3, which was an upgrade over Bluesound, which I still own. Bryston sounds much better with Qobuz (and everything else, for that matter) Played into the Bryston DAC. The player that you are looking at is a fantastic bargain compared to what I paid, which was purchased before they came out with the combo product.
The Bryston Manic Moose control software is pretty bad, the Bluesound beats it easily, but if your main source is Qobuz it won’t matter, because you will creat favorites or playlists on another device . MM then has tabs for that then just pick rom there
I’d suggest the most popular streamer/DAC out there. The Bluesound NODE 2i. Don’t worry about the low price - it sounds good - nice fit for your Rogue and KEF gear, in my opinion. Does Qobuz, Tidal, Spotify, MQA, etc. and the control software is stable.
As Moto well-stated, there’s an endless list of solutions. TBS, I’m just going to put a recommendation in for my personal solution -
A Bel Canto e.One Stream feeding a W4S DAC.
Push your Ethernet and server noise to Fibre Optical cable and lose the noise. Lot more talk about this nowadays. The Lunin X1 is the only DAC that has direct Fibre input on the DAC. I think a lot of networking streaming products become obsolete when this Fibre input becomes mainstream.
So for today if you do not have a expensive Lumin X1 DAC you can do something almost the same with the following.
(If only using ROON)
If no ROON, here are the other options from them.
The Naim series like the nd5xs2 is great at about 3500 ( I own one of these), and the Araulic Vega series, g1 is about 3500 I believe and I Just purchased their g2.1 which runs 6900.00. Both those are very easy to use also, which is important to me.
Many thanks for the insights and helpful suggestions! What a pleasure to get your thoughtful replies.
I’ve already got the BlueSound Node 2. The 2i fidelity-wise is the same. I’m happy with it, but I’m looking at offloading to a DAC to improve the sound even further. Two that have caught my eye in particular are via the links below. The MyTek fully supports MQA, which is nice since I primarily use Tidal HI-FI. The second, the MHDT Labs Orchid especially caught my eye because it has top notch processing and its tube based for a very affordable price.https://mytekdigital.com/hifi/products/brooklyn/https://6moons.com/audioreview_articles/mhdtlab/
I had the CXN and while the SQ was very good the controlling software via the app was useless, particularly if you listen to classical music.
I had a Mytek Manhattan II and it was excellent. Sold it and bought a Meridian Ultra Dac. I figure it was advanced enough that it was not going to be outdated in my lifetime. (I am 75 years young). Moved up from a Naim. The sound is the best I have experienced.
The TEAC NT-505 is right around your budget if you can sell your blue ound and get about three hundred bucks for it.
Having compared the teac to the option of adding a much more expensive DAC to the bluesound, I preferred the sound quality of the teac.
The Orchid is a really nice unit, and it's what I use in my computer system. Just realize that its output is limited to 16 bits and it won't do DSD or MQA.
Cambridge CXN V2 is warmish sounding and IMHO would synergize with your existing system. It will hold 75% of its value in the used market if you take care of it when you eventually upgrade your system.
Yes. Auralic Altair new or used. It works with Roon or you can you its own Lightning software.
Very curious about the Araulic G series, please let me know how you like the sound quality. I’m in the same boat except kinda new to digital streaming; always played vinyl and cd on my tube system. I’d like to add streamer for the convenience beyond low level Spotify/Audioengine D2 and purchase a serious music streamer that allows me to use its DAC for my CD player w/ digital out (no cd rip needed). Thanks
Resolution Audio Opus-21 NS Mod CD
Van Den Hul Crimson Black cart
CAT SL1 Renaissance BPA v2019 pre
Mcintosh MC275 x2 amp
Wilson Audio Sophia 3 speakers
Any Lumin streamer will work well for streaming only. They only have DAC that serves the streamer itself with no auxiliary inputs for a CD transport .
To the OP. I two systems. I have the cxn v2 and the bluesound 2i. I have compared them both in both systems so I may be able to help.
My only complaint on the cxn is it doesn’t play MQA. Of course the bluesound does. If I did it over again I would have bought the upper Cambridge model that does play MQA. However I actually prefer the sound of the cxn playing cd quality over the bluesound playing MQA. The cxn just has a pleasent sound signature.
With that said I recently added a Hegel HD25 dac after the bluesound and it sounds great so you may want to consider looking into that route.
Hope this helps, lots of choices.
Any thoughts on the differences between the Naïm ND5XS2 and the Lumin T2, which are similarly priced?
My main source of streamed music will be Qobuz (as opposed to Tidal) so MQA is probably not as big a factor for me.
To the op ,
I have tried innuos statement and lumin u1 streamers . I had the lumin in my system for over 6 months.
i now have a wolf streamer. The best . Far superior to my lumin in every musical way . Most importantly the people behind wolf are friendly and the nicest of folks. Joe Parvey is a very nice person. To me personal connection is very important as important as the sound quality is . Wolf streamer have both. I strongly recommend you give joe a call before you decide . Wish you all the best in your quest . Please don’t settle , buy the product you are most happy with.https://wolfaudiosystems.com/servers/
Lumin T2’ Auralic Altair, Naïm and Aurender ! Those are the best.
That’s quite a pair of speakers on the Wolf website!
Ps Audio DirectStream is a winner for me after testing many manufacturer in my home. I was suprised how big the difference was compared to others (Mcintosh, Hegel, Mark Levinson) . I pass preamp from it. Also it is cheaper on long term because you get free software updates from manufacturer and they really make difference. I highly recommend tha you test DirectStream if possible.
Ok, here’s what I would do in your shoes. I would sell the Rogue and then with some of the proceeds up your spending level to $5K and buy the new NAD M33 which has what has been described as a “revolutionary” new Class D 200 wpc “Purifi” amplifier, which reportedly has nearly undetectable noise and distortion and has amazing reference SQ. It also has room for upgrading with two expansion slots. It also has a streamer and an excellent ES Sabre DAC. The best thing to do right now would be to go to their website and read all about it, you will be impressed. I traded my NAD M10 in and am awaiting delivery of a new M33, sometime in mid to late August. To say I’m excited would be an understatement!
Best thing what you can do is take to home for listening and make your own opinion and trust your own ears.
BlueSound Node 2i. MAQ is noticeably better.
I wonder if you have listened to the wolf.
i have compared it extensively with the flagship lumin , innuos and aurender streamers and the wolf sounded better in my system . Yesterday I listened to the aurender streamer w20 Se through the Berkeley ref dac and the wolf was better . IMO wolf is a company anyone who streams music should listen to before deciding on their next streamer .
Thanks, Newton. Kevin, please know that you can reach out with any questions. You can call Wolf directly or talk to someone at House Of Stereo (who will have experience with 90% of the products discussed in this thread).
- Joe from Wolf Audio Systems
Thanks very much! — Kevin
Check out the MiniDSP SHD https://www.minidsp.com/products/streaming-hd-series/shd
Does streaming via Wireless or wired, does DIRC Live, includes the mic to do the job, and does streaming
This basically is your streamer, DAC, Pre Amp and DSP all in one, simplifies things dramatically.
My music is on a USB Drive connected to the MiniDSP SHD, with outputs to my Crown Amps, then to my speakers. Really simple, great sound
Bluesound Node 2i,for streamer..Has a good usable Android/iOS App..Connects all the time (had such a lag and issues with Lightning DS from auralic)...I download FLAC into folders on my Mac mini..and create assorted playlists on the app..So cool..
PS: I use a separate DAC...
I was facing the same quandary and went against my rule of “buy once, cry once”. I wanted the Cambridge CNX but opted for the Node 2i. It’s a great piece of gear but unfortunately it doesn’t satisfy me sonically...now I’m hunting for a external DAC.
I agree with all the votes for Lumin. I have the X1 and am very pleased.
Moon mind 2 streamer is excellent. There are a lot of very good dads now days.
+1 with @mahler123
I have the Bryston Pi which is a DACless streamer and Brystons entry point for streamers. The Manic Moose software is pretty bad but like @mahler123 said it dont matter if your just streaming Qobuz.
I know you said yo want Streamer DAC combo but think about seperates as well.
I found the Pi for ~$600 US. That leaves lots of $$ left over to get a good DAC. I like the idea of separates , especially in this case were DAC technology is moving at a rapid clip. Gives you the flexibility to upgrade the DAC.
The Bryston components will be a step up from the Node.
I am also testing roon and right now the way I am configured the MPD service in the Bryston beets the paints off Roon for SQ
I use the LUMIN U1 Mini with a PS Audio DS DAC and am very happy with that combination. Additionally, all LUMIN streamers can be updated through firmware to use the LEEDH Processing algorithm which results in an even better volume control. Moreover, the LUMIN app is really outstanding to control the DAC ICs and music selections.
Pretty happy with my Cary DMS-600. I use it direct to my Pass Labs amps and it sounds very dynamic, musical yet still great detail. It replaced a PS Audio BHK Pre with Telefunken tubes and Luxman DA-06 DAC combo. Sound no comparison, but I do think the PS Audio was the limiting factor for me. I also tried an Aries G1 to replace the streamer portion of the Cary. Cary was so much more dynamic and live sounding.
I bought a "factory refurbed" CXNv2 on Cambridge outlet on Ebay. just over $500.. Now , it doesnt appear to be anything but new as far as I have noticed and there have been no issues with it whatsoever. I really don’t know how it would compare to a Metrum DAC I had and sold to ultilize the Cambridge for DAC duties with an old school PS Audio Lambda transport.
As far as streaming music no issues what so ever. Although I do not subscribe at this point to any pay for music sites. I am an FM junkie for years and had preferred my high end vintage tuners but moved out of the area that had some of the best FM stations in the country (which are really hard to come by at least for my taste) So , the world ’s FM is available . I like the CXN as it also shows the bit rate as well as track playing even from just fm station at least on some that I listen to. The bit rate seems to give some indication of station quality although not always. I have had a few others and not at all worthwhile for a few hundred dollars less (they were primarily internet tuners although likely would stream from a HD..
but at some point I am going to try and compare it to an original Burson HD 160 (dac only) I have . I do notice at times if I am playing videos on my Macbook and streaming the audio that the audio sync may be off at times but likely that is certainly not the issue with the streamer as I’m talking about an 8 yr old Macbook not to mention streaming audio from u tube vids doesnt exactly count as even entry high end architecture. Or, I was just playing the other day on my Mac a Yakuza flic with subtitles and was not exactly sync’ed up. Doubt that is the streamer. Older technology abides in the Mac .
Ditto on Blusound Node 2 You can find a pretty good deal on the version 2 vs 2i of this product, and as i understand it, the 2i advantage was a better dac only, so i using outboard dac no real advantage.
They are cheap enough to try and you can get back 80% of your purchase price if you don't like it or want to upgrade later.
I had Sonos boxes and updated to a Node 2i. It works well..once you get your music library organized for consistency. That was the longest part as I have 7000+ cuts.
Auralic Vega G2. I regret letting it go.
I also highly recommend the Auralic Vega G1. Superb DAC and streamer. I also have in another system the Auralic Altair G1--less expensive than Vega G1--sound is excellent but the Vega G1 is noticeably better. I also used to have a Cambridge 851N, which while good, is not in the same league as the Auralic products.